Using Artifacts to Explore Memory
The outline of the stone is round, having no end and no beginning; like its power, it is endless. The stone is perfect of its kind and is of nature, no artificial means being used to shape it. Outwardly it is not beautiful, but its structure is solid, like a solid house in which one may safely dwell.
– Chased-By-Bears (Santee-Yanktonai Sioux, 1843-1915)
My sandstone is neither sand nor stone. It leaves on my fingers the sharp tang of the copper of which it is made, and it gleams dully. Its back is smoothly worn, and etched into the front are waves, footprints, and words: “Wo du nur eine Spur gesehen hast, da habe ich dich getragen.” It is as heavy as the memory and meaning it holds. Its weight is the weight of God, of religion, of humanity’s incredible loneliness and need, and of the gravity of love.
This loneliness and need has been my constant companion. I received this stone surrounded by people and near God, when my touring chorus visited a monastery in Austria. Yet even among them I knew I was alone. I have often been tempted to receive the solace that God offers, but my reason and perhaps my fear prevent me.
There are indeed many reasons why people seek God, but one reason I have seen time and time again is the foundation that God provides. “Nada te turbe… solo Dios basta,” reads a poem by Sor Teresa de Avila. God allows people to turn the other cheek, to survive injury and illness, to be brave when all they want to do is curl up in a corner. God is beautiful. God is inspiring. God (in the words of all preachers since Christ) is love.
The laws of physics do not allow for God. Everything is accounted for, and there is no room for God – except at the beginning. How did the universe come to be? What laws are at the very foundation of the universe? How did life begin? These are the questions we can’t answer. Often we have turned to God as an answer, but in all cases except for cosmology we have found another answer, and God has been pushed out of the picture. I feel very uncomfortable leaving cosmology in the hands of God. That feels like giving up.
However, Einstein saw God in the fundamentals of the universe. Sometimes I wonder whether advanced physics will show me that there is room for God. I’m skeptical, but I guess all I can do is wait until college-level physics. In the meantime, I think I’m still allowed to love and sing church music.